Christine Reed

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About Christine Reed

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  1. When Being Lazy is Good for the Planet

    I used to be one of those people who would weed and weed and weed. I liked there to be so much space between plants that you could easily see how hard I had worked on that weeding! I liked the look of the piles and piles of mulch that I had spent hours spreading. I edged every time we mowed the lawn (with a reel mower, of course). Totally anal, you know? But I have grown a lot as a gardener and now I can even say that my laziness is totally good for the planet and its inhabitants. Right now if you walked behind my house, you might notice that the persons who tend this yard aren't anal ... at all. When I sit and have a glass of wine with friends in the evening, I have to resist getting up and chopping things down. Though, as time goes by, my resistance takes a whole lot less effort. I stare at the dead and dying cornflowers and think how I could neaten those up at the very least. But then the next day, as my partner exits the house to pick the rabbit her fresh organic daily salad, I hear my partner yelp with glee, and she runs in to tell me that at least ten goldfinches rose up out of the cornflowers when she opened the door. You see, those beautiful goldfinches are seed eaters and all those dead heads are like a gourmet buffet to their little beaks. Who could possibly take those down? The goldfinches would then just move on to some other lucky person's yard! The same is true of the asparagus that are now going to seed, standing tall like some bizarre fern forest near our lily beds. I love watching the various finches and sparrows try to teeter on the "branches" and eat the little seed pods that dangle below. And we have stopped eating the very tiniest of the strawberries that are now coming in. For this fact, the wren and the rabbits are grateful -- I'm sure of it. We also let our grass grow a little longer than most of the neighbors. Not too long; I'm not talking code violation here. But long enough, that a bit of drought doesn't leave us brown and crunchy in one day like it does everyone else. Long enough, that the dandelions can grow for our rabbit, who thinks of them as seasonal candy. Long enough, that the thyme we planted throughout the lawn can spread and release its scent as you walk barefoot through it. Long enough, that it's interesting to the ground foraging, bug eating flickers that have the most intensely yellow under-wings you have ever seen. Now that I don't try to make our yard look like something out of a magazine, it looks even more like something out of a magazine than ever. It is lusty, as a garden should be, and it's a little wild, as the animals and birds crave it to be. I am proud of this little piece of wildness that we have cultivated in this small city, and as we plant another tree this year and start putting in a small pond, I am already dreaming of all the new friends we will make. Christine C. Reed lives on a Great Lake in a small city. She and her partner have been car free for just over seven years and don't see an end to this one year experiment. She spends most of her time dreaming up even bigger garden plans and writing from a dormered window in their brick cape cod. She is also the author of
  2. Ask me where I am from, and more than likely, I will say Lake Erie. Or the Great Lakes. I love Pennsylvania, for sure, but I feel I have more in common with someone from Toronto or Chicago than someone from Philadelphia (though I love that city and lived there many years of my youth). I also love central Pennsylvania, being a Penn State girl. But the hills and valleys feel somehow wrong to me. My eyes crave the flat land, as it reaches toward a low and long horizon. And I truly feel starved for the horizon that is a Great Lake. For those of you who have never seen a Great Lake, it is no simple lake. It would look like the ocean to you. No land in sight. Rolling waves. Lake Erie is one of the most treacherous places you can sail because of how shallow and large it is. Quick changes in the weather can be life-threatening. I also love knowing that this chair I am sitting in, this house sitting behind me, all of it used to be under water. The lake came up to here so many thousands of years ago. It's shore was very close to my front street. Evidence of this lies in my soil. Pieces of shell, fossils, certain rocks -- it all tells a deep and long story. Every place is this unique. You just have to dig a bit. And digging can lead to roots which can give you a sense of grounding that can be easily lost in this world that can seem precariously virtual, too fast, and too transient. Getting to know your bioregion can lead to a feeling of ownership and then to good stewardship. A worthy quest, indeed. So here's a list of questions and suggestions and actions to get you going on this quest: 1. Point north from where you are reading this. 2. From which directions do storms come in each season? 3. Name 3 native, edible plants and when they are able to be harvested. 4. What native people originally lived in your area? 5. Name 5 resident and 5 migratory birds. 6. Can you recognize the calls of three resident birds? 7. What are the earliest and latest times for the sunrise and the sunset over the course of the year? 8. In which watershed do you reside? What about your sub-watershed? 9. How many days until the next full moon? (Bonus points if you know what one of the names for this full moon is.) 10. Name five trees in your neighborhood. Which of them are native? 11. What primary geological events or processes shaped the land upon which you live? 12. Were the stars out last night? 13. What are the names of your human neighbors? 14. What immigrant populations are currently predominant in your area? 15. What languages other than English might you hear at the local grocery store? 16. When are strawberries and peaches available to you locally? 17. When was the last time you bought a locally produced product other than food? 18. Where does your electricity come from and how is it generated? 19. When did you last pick a fresh pea or tomato from your own yard or a neighbor's yard? 20. How far do you commute to work? If over ten miles, why don't you live closer to your job? 21. How old is your neighborhood? 22. When did you last use a form of public transportation? 23. If you could only "vacation" within a thirty mile radius, what would you do with your time off? 24. How many times have you moved in the last five years? The last ten? 25. When did you last attend a locally produced art/music/theatre/dance event? 26. Name one local published author. (Trust me, there are more.) Let me know if you find out anything startling, interesting, mind-boggling. And do something with this information: absorb it and live it and share it.
  3. Why We Live Like This

    Somebody pointed out something that at first seemed very obvious to me today, and it’s something that most environmentalists miss -- something very important to the whole “green†movement. She pointed out that people aren’t going to change if they don’t have good jobs, access to health care, and enough to eat. But then I thought of all the wealthy people in the world who aren’t about to change either and her point -- though a great one -- started to lose its ability to hold water. I wonder: what is the difference between people willing to sacrifice a little to do their part in terms of climate change and those who refuse to believe there is even a problem, much less one worth doing anything about? That leads me to wonder about the people I know who claim to be environmentalists and still drive a car to work...two miles themselves. The disconnect is utterly breathtaking: where does it come from? And then I end up right back where I always do: people don’t care about the environment because they don’t care about themselves. I know, it sounds all new-age therapy. But the way we treat the people around us, the way we treat our homes, the way we treat our own bodies -- for a long time now, it’s been a basic psychological truism that these things all reflect how we feel about ourselves. So, now, we are just taking that idea one step further. How we treat the planet, as individuals and as part of the larger group, is also a mirror for how we feel about ourselves. For example, that environmentalist who drives his car two miles to work is headed to a job that deadens his spirit. He hates his job. He doesn’t want to go. But he needs the money. And he needs the money because he lives beyond his means because he is unhappy; he is living a lie; he is barely living at all. All he really wants to do is live somewhere quiet and build things with his hands. So he drives to work because he can barely get up in the morning much less get on a bike and power himself to his job. The other environmentalist drives all over the county in pursuit of business opportunities. His father has always taught him that he’s stupid and his main pursuit in life now is to prove otherwise. He really just wants to sit and write. But he can’t do that and make a lot of money. Oh, the things we do for money, thinking it will make up for all we lack. When if we would just face our dreams and move toward them, we would be free. In so many ways. The over-consumption would stop. The anger would stop. We could slow down and get rid of stuff and get rid of cars and walk places and know our neighborhoods and our unique geography and care for them because we know them. Imagine, please, for a moment, imagine if everyone were living this kind of life. It wouldn’t matter if we thought corporations were evil, because they would no longer have customers to buy their environmentally degrading crap. We would be healthier mentally and physically. We wouldn’t need the number of anti-depressants that we consume (which end up in our drinking water). We wouldn’t need so much healthcare in general. This is the stuff of a real revolution -- as opposed to the fake kind that is all dramatic and makes its participants feel as if they are doing something when they are not. Stop driving cars to hold placards and march and yell. Go home and do what you love. Stop flying to a conference halfway around the world to sit around and feel self-righteous with other people “in the know.â€Â Go home and get to know your neighbor. Stop working at jobs that contribute to the ill health of this planet and stop hiding behind the excuse of needing the health insurance. Go home and take a long walk every day and see how you stop needing doctors. Stop eating dirty food because it’s cheap. Go home and plant a pack of seeds that cost a dollar. Stop yelling and acting angry and start living the things that come out of your mouth. Stop expecting other people to take care of it, to find a solution, to create a new and better “alternative,†take responsibility for your own culpability and change yourself. That’s all you can do.